Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Attention Foodies: Get Yourself a Tasty Tastebook!

As some of you may have gathered from my previous blog entries, I really enjoy cooking. As a result, you'll find me quite regularly flipping through Bon Appetit and visiting the websites of epicurious and the Food Network to find recipes to try out over the weekend. Pulling together a weekend menu earlier this week, I happened to visit epicurious and noticed something new. On the right hand side of the screen, there was a link saying "Turn your Epi recipe box into a personal cookbook." So I clicked on it and was instantly interested.

What I discovered was For those of us who love to cook but have lots of random recipes that we wished were in a neatly organized, nicely printed book, this site is something we've been looking for. (Just last year I attempted to create a cookbook on Shutterfly...which obviously is much more user friendly for photos than it is for formatted text).

So what is Tastebook? Tastebook is a website that helps you create a personalized, hardcover cookbook. (No more hand written recipe cards for me! ) The book is actually a if you don't use up the 100 recipe quota the site gives you per book, you have an opportunity to add more recipes to it later. And the price isn't too bad seeing that it equates to about $0.35 per recipe (sells for $34.95/book).

Through Tastebook you can add your own recipes (including photos, tips, sources, etc.), search for recipes from Bon Appetit and Gourmet magazines, and import your recipe boxes from Pretty neat!
And besides creating your own book, there's the option to purchase one of several pre-prepared books. The nice thing about these is you can also add recipes to them to make them further customized. I'm personally not that big on just selecting a cookbook with recipes I haven't tried since I have plenty of those already. But this would be nice for people looking for some new recipes to try out. There's even a place on the site to add contacts. So once you complete your Tastebook you can share it with friends. You also have the option to send the cookbook as a gift. The cool thing about this is if your cookbook has 80 recipes in it instead of 100, it gives the person receiving the gift 20 free recipe credits. Neat.

I do have a couple complaints so far in using the website. First, I haven't quite figured out how to organize my recipes in each section. For example, I have several cookie recipes in the "Desserts and Treats" section. The only way I've figured out how to clump them in the same area is to rename the recipe titles to call out what it is first. For example instead of "Spice Roll Out Cookies," I would rename the recipe "Cookies: Spice Roll Outs." But this doesn't work in the case of imported recipes since I can't change them (Tastebook does not give you the option to edit imported recipes). The good news is the site is in its Beta version, so that means some additional changes may be on the way.

So what are my recommendations to Tastebook? For future upgrades to the site, I'd advise Tastebook to:
  • Enable "sub-categories" under the main divided sections for those of us who are overly organized so we can lump chicken recipes, cookie recipes, etc. together. Maybe even let the category be customizable.
  • Enable editing of imported recipes. Maybe there's some copy-right restriction on allowing this...I'm not sure. But we know people modify recipes. For example, if you visit the Food Network site and click on a recipe, many users have rated the recipe and included their own tips/modifications/experiences. So if there's a way to let us edit imports, great. Otherwise I'll be hand typing in recipes instead of importing them which is more of a hastle for me.
  • Offer a group compilation page. I.e. provide an area just for friends to upload recipes and create a book together. This would also come in handy for groups creating a recipe book to sell.
  • Allow high resolution photos to be uploaded for a more customized cover. Although there is a nice selection of photos on the site (40 in all), I'd like to be able to make my book a complete "Sarah Creation."
  • Garner a deal with Food Network and other popular food websites so we can import other recipes to the site as well. Or let people on the site vote for favorite cooks and garner deals with those chefs (I'll be voting to add Rachael Ray, Ina Garten, and Giada De Laurentiis to the list...)

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